Tag:Reds
Posted on: September 5, 2011 4:33 pm
Edited on: September 5, 2011 7:31 pm
 

Remembering the best races of the past 5 years



By Matt Snyder

This coming Wednesday will mark three weeks until the final day of Major League Baseball's regular season for 2011. While it's possible we'll have something go down to the wire -- Rangers-Angels, perhaps? -- many of the races seem to be turning into a yawnfest. With that in mind let's re-live the best race in each of the past five seasons.

2006 - NL Central
The Cardinals won the World Series that year, but almost blew a chance at the playoffs. With an injury-depleted roster, the Cards lost nine of 11 games from September 18-28, seeing a seven-game lead dwindle down to just a half-game over the Astros. A four-game sweep in Houston didn't help. The funny thing was, the Reds were actually tied for first with the Cardinals after winning on August 24 but went through a similar swoon to fall back. After pulling into that tie with the Cardinals, the Reds lost nine of 10 games. The Astros had simply been a mediocre team all season, but the futility of the teams above them made this a three-team race. The result was the Cardinals winning the division after buckling down and winning three of four to clinch with one day left in the season. They finished an uninspiring 83-78, with Astros finishing 1 1/2 games back and the Reds 3 1/2 back. Still, they won it all and proved all you have to do is get there to have a shot.

2007 - The entire NL
The Rockies get most of the ink here, and rightfully so, but every single race in the National League was a good one in '07 while the AL races weren't overly exciting at all. The Central division was actually the least exciting of the races in the NL, and the Cubs only won it by two games. The Brewers were tied with the Cubs on September 18, but the Cubs won four straight and built a 3 1/2 game lead. Like I said, that was the least exciting race in the NL. The Phillies trailed the Mets in the NL East -- and sometimes the Braves -- for the overwhelming majority of the season. In fact, the Phillies never saw first place until September 27, and even then it was a tie with the Mets. The Mets had a seven-game lead on September 12, but proceeded to lose six of seven games and see their lead shrink to 1 1/2 games. The Mets then won three straight and looked like they would hold on, but five consecutive losses then handed the lead to the Phillies. The Mets did win a game and pull to within a tie prior to the last game of the season, but lost that while the Phillies won and took the East. And now we get to the West/Wild Card race(s). It looked like the Padres and Diamondbacks were going to have a two-team race with the loser getting the Wild Card, but then the Rockies historical run happened. They won 14 of their last 15 games, including that extra-inning victory over the Padres in the one-game playoff -- in which Matt Holliday may or may not have touched home plate when scoring the winning run. The game was an absolute classic, with the Padres scoring two runs in the 13th, followed by the Rockies getting three off future Hall-of-Fame closer Trevor Hoffman in the bottom half of the inning. This game was for the Wild Card, as the D-Backs were able to finish the regular season with a one-game lead over both the Padres and Rockies. The Padres actually held a two-game lead over the Rockies with two games to play, and lost both of them -- only to lose in the one-game playoff as well. It should be noted that the Mets were only one game behind the Padres heading into the last day of the season, so a win would have made for a three-way tie in the Wild Card. Basically, what looked like a Mets, Diamondbacks, Padres and Cubs/Brewers playoffs became totally different after the Phillies and Rockies got different degrees of hot in the last few weeks. Maybe that season provides hope for an interesting September in 2011?

2008 - AL Central
The White Sox led by as many as six games in June, but a 10-game winning streak by the Twins knotted the two and they'd stay neck and neck for the rest of the season. The two teams were tied on three different days in September and weren't separated by more than 2 1/2 games all month. What was interesting here is the White Sox finished the season a half-game behind the Twins. There was a lingering rainout against the Tigers that the White Sox had to play the Monday following the conclusion of the actual season. If they won that, it would be a tie for first in the Central and the White Sox would host a one-game playoff. They beat the Tigers 8-2 and then took down the Twins 1-0 behind a masterful performance from John Danks (eight shutout innings, only two hits allowed). The only run the White Sox scored was a solo home run from Jim Thome in the bottom of the seventh.

2009 - AL Central
The Tigers had a seven-game lead after winning September 6, but went 11-15 the rest of the way. The Twins went 18-8 and ran them down, ending the season in a tie for the AL Central crown and forcing what would become an epic one-game playoff. Interestingly enough, the Tigers had a two-game lead heading into the penultimate series of the year, which was a four-game set against, yes, the Twins. It was in Detroit and the Tigers came away with a split. That should have been good enough, as the Tigers now had a two-game lead with three to play. Instead, the Tigers dropped two of three to the White Sox while the Twins swept the Royals. Thus, the one-game playoff would be played in the Metrodome. It would be one of the more exciting baseball games in recent memory. Nine innings weren't enough, as the game headed to extras knotted at four. The Tigers scored in the top of the 10th, but the Twins answered in the bottom half, spurred on by a leadoff triple from Michael Cuddyer. The Twins nearly won the game that very inning, but Alexi Casilla was hosed at home plate by left fielder Ryan Raburn on a potential sacrifice fly. Casilla came away the hero in the 12th, however, as he plated Carlos Gomez (pictured left with Joe Mauer) in the 12th with a walk-off single.

2010 - NL West/Wild Card
Like the Cardinals in 2006, the Giants ended up being the World Series champs after nearly missing out on the postseason. The Giants trailed the Padres by 6 1/2 games on August 25, but from September 4 until September 30, no more than two games separated the two teams. The pivotal series ended up being the Padres losing three of four at home to the lowly Cubs. This put them down three games with three to play. Wouldn't you know it, though, that the final three games were against the Giants. So the Padres could sweep the Giants and force a one-game playoff. Essentially, they controlled their own destiny, but would have to beat the Giants four times in a row. They did win the first two, but Jonathan Sanchez and five other pitchers would shut the Padres out on the final game of the regular season, and the Giants won the West by two games. In the Wild Card race, the Padres had the lead until that fateful Cubs' series, during which the Braves swept the Marlins and passed the Padres. Still, the Braves lost two games as the Padres took the first two from the Giants in the final weekend, meaning the Braves and Padres were tied with one game left. The Padres lost while the Braves survived two late rallies by the Phillies, winning 8-7.

So, will any of the present races provide the kind of excitement we've seen in the past few years? Considering the runner-up of the AL East is going to be the Wild Card, it appears our only chance is the AL West. Then again, would we have predicted the '07 Rockies or '09 Twins to make up the ground they did? That should at least provide some hope for fans of teams like the Giants and Indians this year.

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Posted on: September 4, 2011 12:14 am
Edited on: September 4, 2011 12:15 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Kottaras cycles, Santos implodes

Kottaras

By Evan Brunell

3 UpGeorge Kottaras, Brewers: Kottaras delivered MLB's first cycle of the year, going 4 for 5 with two runs and RBI apiece. In order, Kottaras flied out to start the game, homered, tripled, rapped a RBI single and then a ground-rule double in the top of the ninth. STATS, LLC also found that two of the last three catchers to cycle were Brewers, with Chad Moeller accomplishing the feat in 2004. The Brewers took down Houston, 8-2.

Brandon McCarthy, Athletics:
Brandon McCarthy has been dazzling as of late, and contributed a complete-game shutout on Saturday, pumping 10 strikeouts by the Mariners while allowing just three hits. It was a tour de force for the righty, who threw 114 pitches for 78 strikes. "As much time as I've spent hurt, and you've got everyone out there and behind you when things are going well, it kind of makes you feel like you're on top of the world," McCarthy said, whose promising career was wrecked for years with Texas. "I had to remember to focus and not get caught up in it."

Billy Hamilton, Dayton Dragons (Reds Class A): We don't usually cover minor leaguers in this space, but Hamilton accomplished a cool feat Saturday. He stole three bases to reach 100 on the year, the first minor leaguer to do so since Chris Harris with 111 back in 2001. Hamilton also contributed a 2-for-3 effort in the outing to push his overall line to .278/.339/.360 for the year. The 20-year-old can flat out steal -- obviously -- and if his post-All-Star line of .318/.380/.388 line can be believed, could be in line for quite a few 3 Ups down the line. The last time a major leaguer stole 100 in a season was Vince Coleman's 109 in 1987.



3 DownSergio Santos, White Sox: Santos didn't quite take to his role as anointed 2012 closer too well Saturday. Santos gave up three runs in the ninth, getting just two outs, as the Tigers walked off on a Miguel Cabrera homer (with a two-run shot by Ryan Raburn earlier in the inning). It was Santos' fifth blown save of the year, and while this outing won't affect his status for next year (well, the team is managed by Ozzie Guillen...), it sure can't feel good. "I think every loss hurts when you play this game or when you compete," Guillen said. "But this one is very painful. This game was huge for us. It was a very important game."

Brian Duensing, Twins:
Not only did Duensing give up five earned runs in 1 1/3 of an inning (drawing the loss in a 10-6 game), he came out of the game hurt. He had to leave the game with a right oblique strain, and could miss the rest of the year the way oblique strains have acted these days. Or he could only need to miss a start. Either way, it was a lousy outing for the lefty, whose ERA is now 5.24.

Tyler Colvin, Cubs: A year after impressing people, Colvin has delivered an extraordinarily poor year. He struck out three times en route to an 0-for-5 night on Saturday, dropping his line to .145/.200/.306 in 186 at-bats. The Cubs may have some openings in the outfield next season, but Colvin is giving no indication he will be part of the mix with an OPS over 300 points lower than 2010's .816 on the backing of 20 homers.

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Posted on: September 3, 2011 12:28 pm
 

Price: Chapman should eventually start

ChapmanBy Evan Brunell

Reds pitching coach Bryan Price believes Aroldis Chapman will eventually start, perhaps as early as next season.

“I can’t guarantee anything because it will be an organizational decision,” Price told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “However, I do think at some point he’s going to have a chance to start. I think it’s something we will definitely be looking at."

Chapman is in his first full season in the majors, after finishing out 2010 as a reliever in the bigs. He has a 3.89 ERA in 41 1/2 innings, punching out 62 and walking 34. The lefty had a bout of control issues earlier in the year that resulted in a phantom DL move to get him work in the minors. Since returning, he has a 2.51 ERA in 28 2/3 innings, whiffing 47 and walking 14.

“He’s filled a need for us," Price said. "He helped last year late in the season and this year as the second left-hander to Billy Bray. That was a void. But I would think in the near future he’ll be getting an opportunity to start. That was the intent when we initially signed him.”

Price believes Chapman could succeed even more as a starter, as it would allow Price to work with the Cuban defector in-between starts on improving his game.

“Right now, he’s pitching pretty much fastball, slider and attacking the zone,” Price noted. “He’s been really good commanding the zone, working ahead, not spending too much time trying to be right on the corner. He’s staying away from the deep counts. He’s getting guys where they have to swing.”

Despite pitching with just two pitches, Price doesn't believe that would be an issue in a starting capacity.

“Randy Johnson used a change-up, split-fingered pitch later in his career when he lost some velocity more so than early. [Chapman] has a change-up, and I think he has a good change-up," Price said. "To say he needs it, I don’t know if I’d say that. However, if it’s a serviceable pitch, it’s certainly something he would have in his mix.”

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Posted on: September 2, 2011 9:37 pm
 

Phillips 'disappointed' about contract situation

By Matt Snyder

Reds All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips' four-year contract is up at the end of the season. He desires to stay in Cincinnati long-term, so he's holding out hope the Reds do more than pick up the one-year, $12 million option in the contract. He wants a multi-year extension and is a bit down that he hasn't heard anything about it just yet.

"I've always said from Day 1 that this is where I want to be at," Phillips said on Friday (MLB.com). "I thought there might be some talks going on during the season but I haven't heard anything all year. I was very disappointed about it. It hurts bad that this is where I want to be at and I've paid blood, sweat and tears for this organization, but the only thing I can do is thank them very much for giving me a second opportunity. I can't really trip about anything that much. I came here and got my career back to where it should be going."

Phillips, 30, made his second consecutive All-Star Game this season and is widely considered the best defensive second baseman in baseball. He's hitting .298 with 12 home runs, 73 RBI, 76 runs and a .778 OPS.

General manager Walt Jocketty did tell MLB.com that he planned on discussing the contract with Phillips' agent at some point, it just hasn't happened yet.

Oh, and if the Reds plan on simply picking up that option?

"If they just pick my option up and don't extend me, I feel like that's a slap in my face," Phillips said (MLB.com). "If the team wants you, they will make room. They will show you they want you here, period. They did it for some of the other guys.

"If they're going to have me for just one year, I feel like they don't see me in the future."

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Posted on: September 2, 2011 4:41 pm
 

On Deck: Verlander chases 21, 'Zona 10 straight

On Deck

By Evan Brunell


Follow all games live with CBSSports.com's GameTracker.

DiamondbacksGiantsGone streaking: Arizona will chase its 10th straight victory Friday night as a series with the Giants open. San Francisco is flagging, six games behind the DBacks and with a tall task at hand. Matt Cain will get the ball with a 2.87 ERA and the task of opening the weekend series with a statement, while Joe Saunders will be the man to go for 'Zona, who has a 3.69 ERA. San Francisco cut ties with Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada on Thursday and are recalling a smattering of players to help for the stretch drive, which will be moot if they can't come away with a series win or sweep. To win though, the Giants have to start scoring some runs. Diamondbacks vs. Giants, 10:15 p.m. ET

VerlanderVerlander time: Justin Verlander is appointment-viewing these days. The Tigers ace will take his blazing fastball up against the White Sox, who are 5 1/2 games behind division-leading Detroit. Friday is the first of seven remaining meetings both teams have, and Chicago needs to do well to stay in the race. "I feel like we have to win the series to be really optimistic for the rest of the year," Brent Lillibridge told the Associated Press. "We're ready. We've been playing good baseball." So has Verlander, whose won his last nine games and will tote a 20-5 record and slim 2.39 ERA up against John Danks, a lefty with a 3.63 ERA on the year. White Sox vs. Tigers, 7:05 p.m. ET

CuetoCarpenterBattle for second: The streaking Cardinals are winners of their last four, which has pulled them to 7 1/2 games, which is still a tough task.  The Reds, meanwhile, are on a skid having lost four straight to fall to 13 1/2 back. Cincinnati has a pretty good pitcher toeing the mound Friday night in an attempt to finish the year strong and in second place with MLB ERA leader Johnny Cueto going up against Chris Carpenter. Cueto, owner of a 2.05 mark, is coming off a game where he recorded a career-high 11 whiffs, but Carpenter is on a roll himself and has defeated the Reds the last two times out. Reds vs. Cardinals, 8:15 p.m. ET

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 1, 2011 2:53 pm
Edited on: September 1, 2011 11:36 pm
 

Players of the Month: Avila, Lee



By C. Trent Rosecrans

Every year August is the month when some teams pull away in the playoff race and others fade -- it's one of the biggest months of the season, even if it doesn't have the drama of September or the stakes of October. By the time August is done, there are few surprises -- what you see is what you get.

August's Best
Expert Batter Pitcher
Knobler Ortiz Lee
Miller Granderson Lee
Brunell Avila Kershaw
Rosecrans Votto Lee
Snyder Avila Lee
Fantasy Avila Lee

While one surprise team (Pittsburgh) fizzled, another (Arizona) sizzled. The Diamondbacks started August two games back in the NL West and now lead the defending champion Giants by six games. The D-Backs finished August on a nine-game winning streak -- they also had a seven-game winning streak earlier in the month. Kirk Gibson's club did have a six-game losing streak in the past 31 days, but the Giants have struggled all month, allowing some breathing distance for the D-Backs. 

This August has seen Atlanta's Dan Uggla go from a disappointment to, well, Dan Uggla. His hitting streak ended at 33 games, but his average increased from .206 at the end of July to .232 at the end of August. In all, he hit in 22 of 26 August games and went .340/.405/.670 with 10 homers as the Braves solidified their hold on the NL wild-card spot. 

Uggla was one of three players with 10 homers in the month, along with the Yankees' Curtis Granderson and the Rays' Evan Lognoria.

But it's Detroit's Alex Avila who gains the nod as our Batter of the Month.

His value to the Tigers lineup sealed the deal. Avila hit .360 with seven homers, 19 runs, 18 RBI and a 1.169 OPS in the August. Getting that kind of production from anywhere is incredible, but from a catcher it's just gravy. Even better, Avila bounced back from an awful July in which he hit .197 with a .584 OPS. Some may have thought his breakthrough season was coming to an end, but August was his biggest month of the season.

Meanwhile nine different pitchers picked up five wins. Some of the names (Cliff Lee, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander) aren't surprising, while some (Ivan Nova, Ian Kennedy, Ricky Romero) were young guns making their mark. Another was a pitcher (Hiroki Kuroda) finally getting run support and the last (Bruce Chen) was a total surprise.

But Lee was The Man. He started five games. He won five games. He only allowed two earned runs, which both came in the same game. He averaged nearly eight innings per start, saving the Phillies bullpen some extra work. He struck out nearly a batter per inning while allowing less than one baserunner per inning, meaning he kept the pressure off his defense. Basically, Lee did it all for the Phillies in August, and that's why he snags this Pitcher award for a second consecutive month.

Past players of the month: April | May | June | July


Batter of the Month
Danny Knobler Scott Miller
David Ortiz David Ortiz, Red Sox
Picking a player of the month wasn't easy, but David Ortiz's big two-run home run on Aug. 31 against the Yankees clinched it. Not exactly, but it helped. Even before that, Ortiz had a 1.308 August OPS that was the best by any major-league regular. In a month where no one player really stood out, he was definitely in the mix. And then he homered against the Yankees. So it's him.
Curtis Granderson Curtis Granderson, Yankees
Granderson's August catapulted him squarely into the AL MVP running. I love the symmetry, too: 29 RBI in August, and 29 runs scored. The runs led the majors and ribbies ranked second. Texas' Mike Napoli had a higher OPS (1.094-1.016) and deserves consideration, but if I picked one player to start a team with right now, it's Curtis G.
Evan Brunell C. Trent Rosecrans
Alex Avila Alex Avila, Tigers
Avila has really come into his own in 2011. In August, he hit .372/.481/.721 with seven homers in 25 games. Did I mention he's a catcher? Avila's grip on the starting spot is so strong, he caught 18 consecutive games at one point during August. "He's been absolutely unbelievable," manager Jim Leyland told  MLive.com. "He's been tremendous. There's no question about it. Pretty impressive. Pretty darn impressive." Indeed.
Joey VottoJoey Votto, Reds 
Votto's August was much like Votto himself -- quiet and excellent. The Reds first baseman hit .347/.483/.716 with nine homers and 19 RBI in August. The Reds aren't in the postseason race, so it's unlikely Votto will get much consideration for MVP, but he may have had a better season than he did a year ago when he won the award.
Matt Snyder Fantasy -- Al Melchior
Alex Avila Alex Avila, Tigers
Have you seen his average and slugging percentage in the month? That's just sick, especially for a catcher tasked with scouting opposing hitters and working with his pitching staff day in and day out. The young backstop just keeps getting better for the Tigers, who meanwhile keep winning games and appear headed for the postseason.
Alex Avila Alex Avila, Tigers
Avila wasn't the most productive hitter in Fantasy formats, but he was probably the most productive relative to his position. He lapped the field of catchers, hitting .360 with seven homers and 18 RBI. He also helped owners in formats that reward walks by drawing 19 free passes in his 109 plate appearances. While he didn't have the overall production of Granderson or Carlos Gonzalez, Avila helped his Fantasy owners immensely by providing elite-level production at a thin position.
Pitcher of the Month
Knobler Miller
Cliff Lee Cliff Lee, Phillies
In June, Cliff Lee went 5-0 and allowed just one run. In August, he went 5-0 and allowed two. That means he was slightly better in June than in August. It also means he's had two incredible months, and that he's my pitcher of the month -- again.
Cliff Lee Cliff Lee, Phillies
This is why Philadelphia re-signed this guy. No, not to pitch in August. But to pitch in October LIKE he's pitched in August. Yeah, the 5-0 record in five starts grabs your attention, but that's just the beginning of the dominance. The 0.45 ERA over 39 2/3 innings, the 39 strikeouts against just eight walks, the 0.78 WHIP ... until Wednesday night, the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw was my guy, but Lee's WHIP and strikeouts/walks ratio even tops Kershaw's (0.95, 39/10).
Brunell Rosecrans
Clayton Kershaw Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
Kershaw has been bandied about as one of the next great pitchers, but he's great right now, with a 5-1 August catapulting him into the Cy Young Award chase. Don't look now, but Kershaw has a better record (17-5 to 16-5) than Halladay, thrown more innings (198 2/3; 196 2/3) and has a lower ERA, with a 2.45 mark compared to 2.47 on the year. That's thanks to a month in which the lefty hurled 46 1/3 innings, checking in with a 1.55 ERA.
Cliff LeeCliff Lee, Phillies
Only three times in baseball history has a pitcher had two months in one season with five wins, no losses and an ERA under 1.00 -- Walter Johnson in 1913, Bob Gibson in 1968 and Lee in 2011. Lee threw 551 pitches in the month and just one resulted in runs -- a two-run homer by Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt on Aug. 17 in 9-2 Philadelphia victory.

Snyder Fantasy -- Scott White
Cliff Lee Cliff Lee, Phillies
August was the second month this season where Lee's just been lights-out. This time around, he went 5-0 with a 0.45 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 39 strikeouts in his five starts. His worst outing in the month came when Lee gave up three hits and two earned runs in a win against the first-place D-Backs.
Cliff Lee Cliff Lee, Phillies 
Lee made five starts in August and allowed zero runs in four of them, accomplishing the feat for the second time in three months. He won each of those five starts, averaging eight innings. He'll have his bouts with inconsistency, as was the case during an uneven July, but when he's on, he's arguably the best pitcher in Fantasy Baseball. He showed it again in August.

Danny Knobler and Scott Miller are Senior MLB Writers; Evan Brunell, C. Trent Rosecrans and Matt Snyder are Eye on Baseball Bloggers; Al Melchior is a Fantasy Data Analyst; and Scott White is a Fantasy Writer.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.



Posted on: August 31, 2011 10:00 am
 

Pepper: Concussion continues to haunt Morneau

Justin Morneau

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Justin Morneau said the concussion symptoms that will keep him out until at least Friday are "nothing like" what he went through last year, and I'm sure that's true.

But the fact that Morenau began experiencing those symptoms (a headache and fogginess) on Monday and still had the remnants of the symptoms on Tuesday are scary. There's so little we know about concussions, there's little understanding of how our brains react to being move inside its casing and how long it can affect a human.

Morneau has had plenty of other problems this season, but until this week concussions hadn't been part of his problem -- or at least that we know. That's the thing with concussions, there's so much we don't know and we may never know. Science is a wonderful thing, but it takes time. 

What is impressive is how the Twins have handled this -- they didn't rush Morneau back last season when they could have used him and they're taking all precautions this season. I hope this doesn't last the rest of Morneau's career, but I think it'd hardly be a surprise if it did.

There was a lot of attention to concussions last year in the NFL season, but this isn't just a football problem or even just a sports problem, it's a medical problem that we should all take a lot of interest in and make sure we understand as much as possible. Those who say it's just "ringing a bell" and players need to be "tougher" are just ignorant and it's a mindset that must be changed. [Star Tribune]

Game-changer: Technology isn't just great for fans -- the players are using technology in many ways to improve their games. ESPN.com's Jayson Stark takes an in-depth look at the way baseball is using technology, from iPads to using stats to predict pitching patterns. It's well worth the read.

Elite company: Marlins right-hander Javier Vazquez became the 30th pitch in major-league history to record 2,500 strikeouts in Tuesday's game victory over the Mets. [Miami Herald]

Rehab updates: Grady Sizemore will start his rehab assignment on Wednesday [MLB.com], while Boston's Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew started their rehab assignments on Tuesday -- Drew went 3 for 3 and Youkilis went 1 for 4 with a walk and reached on an error. [Dan Hoard]

Price of success: Remember Pirate Fever earlier this summer? Well, Pittsburgh fans are going to pay for it as the team is raising its prices for 2012. That said, the increase is modest from an average of $15.30 to $16.11 per ticket. The Pirates had the lowest average ticket price in baseball (in one of the best settings) for 2011 and will still be close, if not at, the bottom next season. The Pirates hadn't raised prices in a decade. The Pirates said most tickets would stay the same, decrease or increase by $3 or less. The dugout box seats will be raised by $5 -- but only $2 more than they were in 2002. [Pittsburgh Tribube-Review]

Favorite things: The Tigers wives put together auction gift baskets filled with players' favorite things every year, and you can learn a lot about some of baseball's best -- like Justin Verlander likes crappy food and crappy movies, Ryan Raburn loves killin' stuff, why Daniel Schlereth smells funny and that Phil Coke uses "liquid titanium massage lotion." [H/T MLive.com]

R and RBI: Curtis Granderson is leading the big leagues in both runs and RBI -- a feat that has been done just 19 times before, six times by Babe Ruth. [Baseball-Reference.com]

Wakefield pushed back: Tim Wakefield's seemingly never-ending search for his 200th win will be delayed a bit, as Red Sox manager Terry Francona told the knuckleballer that he's skipping his turn in the rotation for a turn. Andrew Miller will start Friday against Texas instead of Wakefield. Wakefield is 0-3 with a 4.97 ERA in seven starts since his winning No. 199. [Boston Globe]

Call ups: The clubhouse at Great American Ball Park could get pretty crowded. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said "quite a few" players will get called up when the rosters expand. The most heralded is catcher Devin Mesoraco, who Evan wrote about Tuesday. [Cincinnati Enquirer]

In-flight entertainment: You may be able to watch baseball games live on your phone on a flight. [Los Angeles Times]

Father-son show: Former Met Howard Johnson, 50, will play alongside his son, Glen, for the independent Rockland Boulders of the Can-Am League on Sunday and Monday. [New York Daily News]

Cool card: Check out these awesome baseball cards fans got when they went to a My Morning Jacket concert in Philadelphia last week. Very, very cool. [UniWatch Blog]

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 30, 2011 6:25 pm
Edited on: August 30, 2011 11:41 pm
 

September Storylines: Minor-leaguers to get calls

Mesoraco

By Evan Brunell

With September around the corner, major-league rosters will be expanded to 40 men, allowing teams to call up players for any reason. Whether that be taking a look at a player that could be a big part of the team's future or supplementing playoff contenders, the transition to 40 men will change games in September. Here's a look at nine players who could have significant roles moving forward that could dictate a team's immediate and long-term future. For the purposes of this discussion, we're limiting the candidates to those with little-to-zero MLB experience, as well as those who have yet to make an impact in the majors. (In other words, no Stephen Strasburg, Pedro Alvarez or similar candidates.)

Jesus Montero and Manny Banuelos, Yankees: The hubbub has been all about Jesus Montero for quite some time, and he should finally get the call to New York on Thursday. When he arrives, Montero should collect enough starts behind the dish and as DH for the Yankees to evaluate whether he can help them in October. While the Yankees have enjoyed a productive DH combination of Andruw Jones and Jorge Posada, Montero could easily outdistance the two if he delivers on his promise.

Banuelos, meanwhile, has a chance to be a sneaky threat. The Yankees lack a true viable left-handed reliever as Boone Logan's effectiveness in that role has been deceptive. Banuelos was expected to be converted to relief in the hopes of helping in that role down the stretch, but has remained in the rotation for Triple-A, making six starts and posting a 3.03 ERA, and GM Brian Cashman said a couple weeks ago that it was unlikely Banuelos would be called up.

I'm not sure we should buy into that, however. Banuelos has long been linked to an eventual call-up and can help the team. Plus, don't look now, but the Rays have made up some ground recently, and the wild card is not even close to being in hand, while a three-game set with division-leading Boston coming up Tuesday night will also have ripple effects. Given A.J. Burnett has imploded, Phil Hughes is a box of chocolates (you never know what you're gonna get) and Bartolo Colon has shown chinks in his armor lately, Banuelos could end up a surprise starter down the stretch and save New York's season.

Devin Mesoraco, Reds (pictured): The Reds have an embarrassment of riches at catcher, with Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan equipping themselves well in the majors, while Devin Mesoraco and Yasmani Grandal continue rising up prospect charts down on the farm. Mesoraco could be the best of them all and will get a chance to prove that in September. Hitting .289/.372/.486 in 495 plate appearances for Triple-A, the 23-year-old figures to bump Hernandez off the team this winter. The Reds are clear sellers in a disappointing season after winning the division, and a strong debut by Mesoraco could get the team chomping at the bit for 2012.

Anthony Rizzo, Padres: Rizzo fell on his face in an earlier promotion to the majors after ripping apart Triple-A. Hitting .143/.282/.265 in 117 plate appearances isn't how one wants to start his career, but Rizzo should get another shot in September, although he'll have to jostle for playing time due to Kyle Blanks and Jesus Guzman. The 21-year-old has nothing to prove in the minors, ripping 26 home runs in just 89 Triple-A at-bats and could be an important piece to the Padres' 2012 hopes, so he'll get plenty of chances to redeem himself. The guess here? He will.

September Storylines
To come:
    • A look at the postseason races
Jacob Turner, Tigers: Turner already made a spot start for the Tigers, but Detroit could dip down again for the phenom that could top the rotation one day. The freshly-minted 20-year-old has a 3.44 ERA in 20 minor-league starts, all but three at Double-A. Overall, he's tossed 136 1/3 innings in 2011, which is a significant leap forward from 2010's 115 1/3 innings, so inning limitations could play in. However, if Detroit wants to make the postseason and go deep, they have to do something to support Justin Verlander in the rotation. Max Scherzer has been playing a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde act, and Doug Fister is a capable pitcher but no one's idea of a lockdown starter. If the Tigers take the gloves off, Turner could emerge to be an important piece.

Stephen Lombardozzi, Nationals: The Nationals already have a middle-infield combination in Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa, but the Nationals balked at including Lombardozzi in a potential trade for Minnesota's Denard Span for a reason. The second baseman will receive a look in September as a potential solution at second next year, which forces Desmond and Espinosa into a tough position of playing for their jobs. Lombardozzi is only 22 but has handled Triple-A with aplomb, slashing .320/.364/.426 after a promotion from Double-A. If he plays well down the stretch, one of Desmond or Espinosa will likely be playing in another uniform come 2012 and could be the prime bait needed to grab the long-term center fielder the team so covets. A strong September by Lombardozzi could have ramifications for years in Washington.

Wilin Rosario, Rockies: Chris Iannetta hasn't given the Rockies any indication he can be a long-term, viable starter, but it's OK because Rosario can be that man. While Rosario hasn't exactly lit the world on fire in his repeat of Double-A with a .254/.285/.468 line over 410 PA a year after hitting .285/.342/.552 in 297 PA, he will be receiving a call-up and will play extensively down the stretch. Rosario is well-regarded by both the organization and prospect mavens, so he's a player to watch.

Domonic Brown, Phillies: Brown already tried and failed to hold down a starting job earlier this year, and his role will be greatly reduced in September thanks to the recent play of Raul Ibanez and John Mayberry, but don't overlook Brown. Any day, Ibanez or Mayberry could stop hitting and Brown would be looked at to step in and keep the offense going. Even if not, the Phillies have been linked to Jim Thome and Jason Giambi in recent days as ways to shore up the bench. Brown is a left-hander... even if he's not oozing with power or established. Still, he could be that pinch-hit threat off the bench Philadelphia is looking for in October. He hasn't exactly inspired confidence in Triple-A, but the light could go on any day and when it does, he will be a force to be reckoned with.

Brett Jackson, Cubs: As the Cubs look to move past the futility that has dogged them in recent years, Brett Jackson could be a breath of fresh air. While his call-up isn't guaranteed, he's ripped apart Triple-A despite striking out in 30.6 percent of his at-bats. That can be forgiven with a .319/.395/.583 line in 186 plate appearances, which could force the Cubs' hand. Long considered the Cubs' center fielder of the future, that could turn into the present as Chicago begins evaluating its prospects for 2012. With Kosuke Fukudome out the door, Tyler Colvin struggling and Marlon Byrd not part of the future, Jackon could be in line for significant playing time. If he produces, that's one less spot Chicago has to worry about filling, and will give the team someone young on offense other than Starlin Castro to build around.

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